It’s a sobering statistic, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Labor, in the three years following a hurricane strike, 75% of small businesses without a continuity plan will fail.
Creating a continuity plan is a must, said Aaron Sundquist, SVP, Operational Risk Officer at Seacoast Bank. “Your business provides for you and your family. It’s not worth taking the chance, especially in a state like Florida.”
According to Sundquist, the core of every effective business continuity plan is a comprehensive risk assessment and the resulting action plan.
“With some thoughtful preparation, many of the risks to your business can be avoided or at least mitigated,” said Sundquist. “Not only will you be open for business while many of your competitors are closed, but also think of the customer loyalty that will develop because you were there when customers needed you most.”
Sundquist urges small businesses to think of mission-critical activities as part of their planning. Among the questions they should consider asking is, “What must I do or what must I have for my business to remain operational?” These areas will be a business’s greatest vulnerabilities in the aftermath of a storm.
Communications are essential for any business to remain operational after a storm emphasized Sundquist. Online systems businesses use including phones, e-mail and payments may be down. Businesses will need alternative ways to be accessible for their customers and sell them products and services during periods without electricity and Internet access. They’ll also need to find alternative ways to pay employees and vendors to keep their doors open.
A small business’s physical facilities are a critical part of continuing to operate after a storm said Alex Garcia, SVP, Director of Corporate Real Estate at Seacoast Bank. But he cautions the effort you put into developing a plan for continuous operation after the storm shouldn’t begin June 1, the official start of storm season. It should begin several months before.
“Conduct a thorough review of your physical facilities and assets and make sure roofs and windows are secure and watertight,” Garcia said. “Next, determine if any of your facilities are prone to flooding and work to mitigate that with improved drainage and sandbags.”
Garcia mentioned trimming trees near your facilities as paramount and often overlooked. Much of the damage to residential and commercial structures isn’t from wind blowing in windows or knocking down walls but from debris such as tree limbs that become airborne and inflict damage upon impact.
Garcia also suggested supplying each physical facility with a hurricane kit that might help employees continue to conduct business after a storm. Things that could be included in such a kit are first aid supplies, bottled water, sandbags, batteries, alternative light sources, weather radio, pen, and paper, etc.
According to Matt Diemer, SVP and Regional Commercial Banking Director for Seacoast Bank, the greatest vulnerability for many small businesses might not be what they think. “In all your storm preparation, don’t forget to consider what an interruption to your cash flow might do to your business,” Diemer said. “If the Internet and phones are down, how will you take payment from customers? How will you pay vendors and suppliers? How will you pay your employees? These things will impede business operations just as much as a broken window or downed tree.”
Diemer points out the things a business needs to mitigate storm scenarios, like back-up generators, extra cash and satellite phones, can be costly.
“Once you’ve assessed risk and identified things you need to keep your business running after a storm, call an experienced banker who knows the state of Florida,” said Diemer. “He or she can help you work with financial services experts and others to get a plan together to maintain the right balance of cash and credit. Short term needs might be covered by a line of credit, while long-term needs might need to be covered elsewhere. Either way, the right banker will be able to tailor a solution for you and your business.”
As additional resources to help businesses prepare for a storm, Diemer recommends the National Hurricane Center website. He also recommends a business tool kit found on FEMA’s website.
Seacoast Bank is one of the largest community banks headquartered in Florida with approximately $6.7 billion in assets and $5.2 billion in deposits. The bank provides integrated financial services including commercial and retail banking, wealth management, and mortgage services to customers through advanced banking solutions.